The most effective way to reduce deaths and injuries from cluster bombs and other explosive ordnance (EO) is a comprehensive education program to reinforce the local population’s awareness of the risk. In the early years of RENEW’s work, risk education was the main emphasis and quickly resulted in a steep decline in deaths and injuries in Quang Tri. While survey and clearance will continue for years to come, it is important to continue risk education to refresh people’s knowledge and to retrain each class of young people in the schools.
RENEW’s risk education program teaches children and adults who must live with this danger how to be safe – and how to be part of the everyday solution to the problem. Children are particularly vulnerable to accidents with cluster bombs and other EO. Leveraging the existing resources of local Youth Union officials, the Red Cross, village chiefs and school teachers, the program provides teacher training, classroom materials and visits to RENEW’s dedicated education center to reach out to marginalized children in schools across the provinces of Quang Tri and Quang Ngai. We target primary and secondary schools located in known contaminated areas and ethnic minority groups living in the most isolated villages. Together with local volunteers, RENEW organizes school presentations, rallies and performance troupes as well as children’s art contests and distribution of comic books to spread the risk education message.
Billboards and poster campaigns in the at-risk villages help maintain risk awareness in the adult population at the grassroots level, particularly farmers, construction workers and scrap metal gatherers. The program also engages children and adults to join RENEW’s community reporting network and to call in discoveries of unexploded munitions for rapid and safe removal by RENEW’s emergency response teams. This network plays a key role in reducing EO accidents – in 2020 it contributed to 645 reports of unexploded ordnance to RENEW’s rapid response teams.
Today, less than two percent of Quang Tri residents are unaware of the “safe behaviors” they need to follow to prevent accidents, or don’t know what to do when they encounter dangerous ordnance.
RENEW’s risk education program has helped cause a dramatic drop in EO accidents in Quang Tri — the three years 2018-2020 are the first time since the war ended in 1975 that there have been no injuries or fatalities.
Renew has begun extending this program to neighboring provinces, and there is potential to expand it much further as funding becomes available.